When Meetings go Wrong: How to Spot the Warning Signs

Author: Cronofy

1st April 2014

If you were to ask most office workers what they spend most of their time doing they will probably say having meetings and/or dealing with emails. Staples of the everyday working life, you might respond. But in reality these are often unproductive activities that eat into our precious office hours.

A survey by Officebroker.com last year revealed that the average office worker spends 16 hours in meetings each week, and around a quarter of that is wasted! That’s four hours each week that could be better spent elsewhere. Over the course of a career the average worker spends around 9,000 hours in pointless or unproductive meetings – that’s one year and 10 days of his life he will never get back.

Next time you find yourself in one of these needless meetings be aware of the warning signs of meetings gone bad and prepare to do something to rectify the situation.

Look out for:

Rambling without purpose or going off agenda

A carefully written agenda will go a long way toward keeping a meeting on track and to time. Encourage all participants to plan for their part in the meeting and do their bit to keep it flowing.

People doing their own thing

As soon as participants start texting, doodling, checking Facebook etc they are tuning out of the conversation and may as well not be there. And as soon as one person starts doing it others quickly follow. To avoid this, establish ground rules at the start – mobile phones stay in pockets/bags is simple but effective.

Unprepared participants

Hold people accountable if they have come to the meeting unprepared. So long as everyone was given fair warning and encouraged to contribute to the agenda and bring their ideas to the table there should be no excuse for not doing their homework. If you hear the “I just didn’t have time to read that report/compile that spreadsheet/analyse that data” excuse too often lay down the law and look at how you can help the person better manage their time and develop their planning skills.

All talk, no action

Sometimes discussions seem to go on forever, yet at the end no decision is made. Every item on the agenda should be there for a reason and there should be a clear outcome that you want to achieve. If you need to decide who is responsible for writing a report/liaising with IT/buying the biscuits then do so, and put it in writing. If something really cannot be signed off there and then, ensure it is raised as an action point at the next meeting, and that everyone knows what they need to do in the meantime so that a conclusion can be reached.

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Date: 1st April 2014 | Category: Productivity